The year is 632 A.D., and Muslim hordes have set their sights on the Mideast and North Africa — the old Christian world. And the Caliphate, as the Islamic realm is called, will not be denied. Syria and Iraq fall in 636. Palestine is next in 638. And Byzantine Egypt and North Africa, not even Arab lands, are conquered by 642 and 709, respectively. Then, just two years later, the Muslims cross the Strait of Gibraltar and enter Iberia (now Spain and Portugal). The invasion of Europe has begun.
And the new continent seems no impediment to Islam. After vanquishing much of Visigothic Iberia by 718, the Muslims cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Gaul (now France) and move northward. Now it is 732, and they are approaching Tours, a mere 126 miles from Paris. The Western world — what’s left of Christendom — could very well be on its way to extinction.
Europe is currently easy prey, comprising disunited, often belligerent kingdoms and duchies recently decimated by plague. In contrast, the Islamic world is a burgeoning civilization; so much so, in fact, that it views the Europeans as barbarians. The Muslims also command enormous battle-hardened military forces and have enjoyed almost unparalleled breadth and rapidity of conquest, while Europe no longer has standing armies. It largely relies on peasants to do its fighting, men available only when crops aren’t beckoning. Yet the Christian Europeans do have one great asset: Charles of Herstal, grandfather of Charlemagne.
Sensing the coming storm as early as 721, Charles realized he was going to need a professional, well-oiled fighting force if he was to tackle the Moorish wave washing across Christendom. So, using Catholic Church resources, he set out to train just such an army. And now, 11 years later, it will be put to the ultimate test.
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